As Gov. Gavin Newsom pondered over the weekend who he will appoint to the Senate following the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday, supporters of Rep. Barbara Lee launched a campaign on her behalf and the governor’s aides fought back against criticism of him would choose a short-term caretaker for the coveted position.

“If that person decides to seek a full term in 2024, they are free to do so. There is absolutely no litmus test, no promise,” Newsom spokesman Anthony York told The Times on Sunday.

However, it would be a daunting challenge to mount a successful statewide campaign just six months before the March primary, when other candidates have been fundraising throughout the year. Although the incumbent is a powerful force in elections, there is no guarantee that Newsom’s appointee will be a viable candidate.

The Democratic governor promised in 2021 to appoint a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat becomes vacant. But he has been under fire since he announced plans to make it an “interim appointment” earlier this month.

Newsom said it wouldn’t be fair to select someone to enter the 2024 race that is already underway. But Lee and her supporters said Newsom should pick her — the most prominent Black candidate.

Lee, of Oakland, is one of three Democratic congressmen in the race. The others are Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine and Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, who are white. There have been no Black women represented in the U.S. Senate since California Senator Kamala Harris resigned in 2021 to become vice president.

Since Feinstein’s death on Friday, Lee’s supporters have mounted an aggressive campaign calling on Newsom to change his stance and address her.

“The most qualified person to succeed Senator Dianne Feinstein on day one is none other than Congresswoman Barbara Lee,” Steven Horsford, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in an interview with MSNBC on Sunday.

Also the caucus sent Newsom a letter He advocated for Lee, and Horsford said he spoke to Newsom about it by phone and in person.

“We ask him to understand the moment of this appointment not only for the people of California, but for the people of the United States,” Horsford said.

Given Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate, Newsom is under pressure to announce his pick quickly.

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